NEW YORK (AP) — Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III was looking for a hot hand when picking four players to fill out his American team. Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker delivered two performances that were very warm.
They find out Tuesday whether it was enough for Love to pick them.
Three weeks after eight players qualified for the team, Love adds four picks during a news conference Tuesday morning in New York. Jim Furyk, who has earned his way onto every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team since 1997, and Steve Stricker were expected to be chosen.
The tricky part was figuring out who would get the last two spots.
“Somebody is going to be really disappointed,” Snedeker said after closing with a 67 to make one last impression. “And whoever it is probably deserved to make the team. So it’s going to be a tough night for me and everybody else on the outside looking in.”
Snedeker, who missed five tournaments (including the U.S. Open) with an injury this year, finished second at The Barclays and sixth at the Deutsche Bank Championship, which ended on Labor Day at the TPC Boston. Johnson, who missed the Masters during a three-week hiatus to heal a back injury, tied for third at The Barclays and birdied his final hole in Boston to tie for fourth.
No other candidate did that well, though an argument can made for Nick Watney, who won The Barclays. Then again, Watney had a poor year by his standards, and he left the conversation almost as quickly as he joined it after his win at Bethpage Black.
It’s quite a turnaround from two years ago. The U.S. Open captain was Corey Pavin, who was desperate to find out which player was on form and no one really did anything. One of his picks was Rickie Fowler, the first PGA Tour rookie to be picked for the team. Now, Love has more options than he has choices.
“Davis has got such a tough job on his hands,” Rory McIlroy said Monday after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship. “I really wouldn’t want to be in Davis’ position trying to decide who to pick.”
Love has hinted over the last month that Stricker and Furyk likely would be choices. That leaves a half-dozen players for two spots, and Snedeker and Johnson emerged as the two strongest candidates based on their play the last two weeks in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Johnson, despite his length and sheer talent, was not thought to be a strong candidate going into the playoffs. He did not perform well in Wales two years ago, or at Royal Melbourne last year in the Presidents Cup. Finding a partner has not been easy. But he made it difficult to ignore him the way he played Bethpage Black and the TPC Boston, both times getting into contention going into the final round.
“I’ve had a good past two weeks, so I think I’ve made my case pretty solid,” Johnson said. “I guess I’ll find out. I really want to play on the team. I really think that I can help the team, and it’s something that I really enjoy doing.”
On the bubble was Hunter Mahan, who was in the decisive match two years ago when he lost to Graeme McDowell. It’s amazing that he didn’t make the team on his own after winning twice this year, including the Match Play Championship in February when he soundly beat McIlroy. Mahan, however, hasn’t won since the first week in April at the Houston Open, and he has had only one top-10 since then.
Perhaps the best measure of his form is that he was leading the Ryder Cup standings after the Masters and still didn’t qualify. Mahan spoke last week of embracing the pressure of trying to make the team, and competing with an edge. He tied for 33rd, and was quiet after his round when asked what he was thinking.
“Nothing right now,” he said. “Trying to figure out how I can play better, really.”
Fowler won his last four holes in Wales to scratch out a halve that nearly proved decisive for the Americans. He won on the PGA Tour for the first time this year at Quail Hollow, but has struggled in recent months, particularly at the majors.
Stricker and Furyk, meanwhile, tied for 13th. Furyk missed the cut at The Barclays.
“Last week didn’t help my cause, but I feel like I played solid this week,” Furyk said. “I know they want some hot players. They want some guys that are playing well, and I guess guys like Strick and I are going to be hopeful that they also want some battled veterans and guys that have been there before.”
McIlroy, who led Europe’s standings, said he would be watching Tuesday morning because he was curious whom Love picked. Phil Mickelson said he had a good idea who the picks were going to be having spoken to Love. He wouldn’t share so much as a hint.
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